52 Foods Week Fifty One: Guinea Fowl

Back in January, I shared the delicious chicken we got from Cache Creek Meat Company. Since then I’ve frequently stopped by their table for both simple and exotic animals, only to be turned away because they were sold out. Seeking to remedy this before the year ended, I leapt out of bed and went straight to the Farmers’ Market, a few weeks ago, getting there in time to have my pick of beasts. As luck would have it, they were flush with species, and I had my choice of chicken, duck, guinea fowl, and rabbit. Having just stocked the freezer with our CSA share, I could not bring home every animal that I would have enjoyed. I went with the one option I’d never had before: the guinea fowl.

A small, sartorially varied beast, the guinea fowl has a nice balance of dark and light meat, with a slim breast and long legs. Mine—the largest available—was nearly two pounds of bird. I consulted the Silver Spoon for ideas, and settled on a plan involving bacon, herbs, and a pot full of persimmons, potatoes, and onions.

Fowl with Stuffings

I began by cutting in half a few slices of Llano Seco’s wonderfully thick cut bacon. I placed two pieces in the bird’s cavity, along with sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Then I draped a few more pieces of bacon over the guinea fowl’s breast.

Gird with Bacon

I pinned the bacon with some skewers, then trimmed the ends to allow for easy browning of the bird.

Trim Skewers

I brushed our large Le Creuset with oil and did my best to brown the bird allover. Meanwhile, I chopped the onions, persimmons, and potatoes that would cook with it.

Browning the Bird

Once the bird was as well browned as I could manage in the deep pot, I threw in the onions and cooked them until they were translucent.

Sautéing Onions

I returned the bird to the pot, and surrounded it with the onions, persimmons, and potatoes. I’ve seriously embraced persimmons this year, enjoying them both raw and roasted. I particularly enjoy them cooked along with meat in a large pot, with or without potatoes.

Bird in Pot with Onions, Persimmons, and Potatoes

I covered the pot, and put it in the oven at 325°F. After 40 minutes, I removed the bacon from the sides of the bird and the cavity, then left it to cook longer with the lid off. At this point, the bird was still quite pale, but cooking with the lid removed would allow it to darken and let the skin crisp up a little.

After 45 Minutes, Remove Bacon

I sliced the bacon into lardons, and finished them in a pan on the stovetop. After another 15 minutes, the guinea fowl was done, and I removed it from the oven and the pot and let it rest.

Cook Another 15 for Color

I tossed the lardons into the pot with the vegetables, stirred them together, and scooped them into a serving bowl with a slotted spoon. Before disposing of the liquid in the pot, I drizzled a little back on top of the vegetables. Then I carved up the guinea fowl.

Carved Bird and Vegetables

The guinea fowl was very moist and tender. While the light meat was about the color I expected, the legs were impressively dark, even a little ruddy. They were also a little sinewy, but quite tasty, and the breast was succulent, needing just a little salt and carrying a bit of flavor from the bacon. The roast potatoes and persimmons were a good complement—a wonderful mix of sweetness from the fruit and saltiness from the bacon. This was a fun bird to buy and cook.

Guinea Fowl for Serving

All the photos are here.

52 Food Week Fifty: Lamb Shank

As I mentioned last week, we recently signed up for a meat CSA that delivers a nice mix of beef, chicken, and lamb every month. Lamb shanks have so far been a regular inclusion, which delights me to no end, since they are one thing that I’m almost guaranteed to order if they’re available at a restaurant (unless there is rabbit, in which case Thumper usually wins). I had never made lamb shanks at home, but my hand was forced and it was time to attempt one of my favorite dishes.

I did some searching for a recipe that sounded like the Italian-ish preparation to which I’m partial. I finally happened upon an NPR article with a variation on an Alice Waters’ dish that looked both approachable and traditional. I figured that the doyenne of fresh, local cuisine would not lead me astray. I cut the recipe in half to accommodate our household of two and got cracking.

I began by trimming the excess fat and the membrane from the outside of the shanks. Next I rubbed them with salt and pepper, and browned them all over in a hot pan of olive oil.

Browned Lamb Shanks

Once they were browned, I poured off most of the oil, and tossed in some onion, carrot, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and a bay leaf.

Veggies and Spices

Once these were soft, I deglazed the pan with some white wine and a tomato, then put the lamb shanks back in, along with a cup of beef broth. I covered it and put it in the oven, set to 325°F.

Lamb Shanks Ready for Braising

After about two hours of cooking, I removed the lid to let the shanks brown for the final 20 minutes.

About Two Hours Later

Meanwhile, I mixed up a little gremolata of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.


When the shanks were done, I removed them from the pan, then poured the vegetables into the food processor and puréed them. I then returned the purée to the pan, got it up to a nice simmer, and put the lamb shanks back in for a minute or two.

Shanks in the Sauce

We served the lamb shanks over couscous with the sauce and gremolata on top. This is a fantastic recipe for what I consider the most typical lamb shank preparation. The meat was extremely tender and falling off the bone. We didn’t even need knives. The gremolata adds a nice kick from the garlic and lemon zest. If you’ve got lamb shanks and you’re not sure what to do with them, this is it.

Lamb Shanks Are Served

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Forty Eight: Ground Pork

I spent much of this week contemplating recipes for persimmons, a fruit I only first had last Monday, even going so far as a failed chutney attempt. While coming up empty on good persimmon ideas, I was inspired by our friend Tracy who put out a call for meatloaf recipes. It’s been years since I last made meatloaf, and with Jen and I both furiously working on finishing the school quarter, it seemed like a perfect comfort dish that would also yield a meal or two of leftovers. This week could have gone either of two directions, pork or beef, as I use both in equal proportions. I chose pork because I’m still hoping to showcase my burger skills before the year is out.

I picked up a half pound each of Llano Seco organic pork and Five Dot Ranch beef, both freshly ground by the Davis Co-Op.

Beef to the Left, Pork to the Right

I put the ground meat in a bowl and added about a cup of finely chopped onion, a chopped garlic clove and two ribs of celery.

Onion, Garlic and Celery

Next I added a bunch of bread crumbs and an egg.

Breadcrumbs and Egg

Finally, I spiced it with a teaspoon and a half of salt, a tablespoon of dijon mustard and ground black pepper all over the top.

Salt, Pepper and Dijon

Next came the fun part, getting into the bowl wrist deep and mixing it all together.

Playing with My Food

When it was all mixed together, I filled a loaf pan and covered it with foil. I placed it in an oven at 350° F for 30 minutes, after which I removed the foil and continued cooking it at 400&deg F; for another 30 minutes, until it had reached an internal temperature of 160° F.

We sliced it up and enjoyed it with baked potatoes. This meatloaf is super easy to make, and has a great meatloaf taste—lots of umami, just like meatloaf should be.


Photos here.

52 Foods Week Forty Five: Brisket

My friend Leon and I were planning a meal for about a dozen people, so we cruised the Farmers’ Market looking for inspiration and ingredients. We knew we wanted a nice hunk of meat to roast, so we stopped by the Yolo Land & Cattle booth to see what beef was available. Yolo Land & Cattle’s raises some excellent grass-fed beef, just north of us in Woodland, CA. I’ve enjoyed a few cuts from them, and always been pleased.

Given the number of people we were feeding, we settled on a nice seven and a half pound slab of brisket. Brisket is something I usually leave to others who are more adept at it than I am, whether it’s Laurelhurst Market or my good friend Sarah, and I was a little nervous about tackling this. The only other time I’ve tried to make brisket was last Christmas, and while it turned out okay, it didn’t really achieve the proper tenderness until the second time I reheated the leftovers. Hoping to avoid that fate again, I carved out seven hours for the brisket to cook, and consulted numerous recipes before coming up with my plan.

I placed the brisket fat side up in a large roasting pan, then covered it with a dry rub of salt, paprika, peppers, mustard seed, coriander and sugar.


Next I added some knobby carrots from Fiddler’s Green to the pan, and placed it in the middle of the oven at 300°F.

With Carrots

After about three hours, the fat was really starting to melt, and the brisket’s aroma filled the kitchen. I pulled it out, and flipped it over, then added about a cup of red wine to the pan and covered it with foil.

Flip Brisket Add Wine

The brisket went back in the oven for close to four more hours. I pulled it out at 5:45pm when it had reached an internal temperature of 190°F. It sat covered for about an hour, while we prepared the rest of the meal, then Leon sliced it and the carrots and we reduced the pan drippings and drizzled some of them over the meat before serving. This brisket was tender and subtly spiced. It was especially delicious with a bit of carrot and potato on the end of the fork.

Finished Brisket with Carrots

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Forty Four: Pomegranate

One of the more surprising features of Davis are the fruit trees that grow in every neighborhood—not just lemons and limes, but persimmons, olives and pomegranates. This last fruit is something I’ve always placed in the too-much-effort category. I find picking out the seeds to eat one by one, then having to spit each out after extracting the minuscule amount of juice from it, entirely too tedious. There is, however, one application for pomegranate that I can get behind: grenadine.

Homemade grenadine is a far cry from the overly sweet and artificial tasting store bought kind. It also ditches the neon pink color for a deep magenta that is quite pleasing to the eye. Fortunately, making grenadine from a fresh pomegranate is much easier than actually eating that pomegranate.

I bought a few blemished pomegranates from Pearson Farms, a small fruit grower in Marysville, CA. I have a soft spot in my heart for Marysville, and its small downtown. My family often stopped there, on our way to or from camp, and I would take in their large pond with ducks and other water fowl, wishing I had a paddle boat to cruise around it.

In addition to being a quarter of the price of the unblemished fruits, the blemished pomegranates have the advantage of being split precisely because they are very ripe.

To make my grenadine, I followed Jeffrey Morganthaler’s recipe. I sliced each pomegranate in half, then juiced them using an citrus juicer.


My technique is apparently not as effective as Morganthaler’s, because where he claims he gets about a cup from each pomegranate, I got half a cup from all three combined. That’s really okay, because I won’t be using that much grenadine, but something to note.

Less Than Expected

I heated the pomegranate juice on the stove until it was starting to steam, then added a half cup of sugar, stirring to dissolve it.

Add Sugar

Finally, I added a half ounce of pomegranate molasses and the ever important orange blossom water.

Orange Blossom Water and Pomegranate Molasses

I poured my grenadine into an old Rose’s bottle and popped it in the fridge. It’s plenty to cover a few pink drinks this holiday season.


All the photos are here.